I am not a very maternal woman. Blame it on a combination of nature and nurture, but I find children under the age of three slightly intimidating, my own child being the exception. To me, babies and small toddlers come across as small, disdainful tyrants. And they don't get my jokes.
Over the years I've tried to analyse my deficiency in the maternal department. My conclusion: infants can't talk and I'm very much an aural communicator. It's easier for me to read the signals being sent out by a cat or dog I've just met than the grizzlings of a familiar baby. It's not that I dislike them, but babies and I don't always get one another.
All of this doesn't stop me from understanding how important they are, or how they're the foundational material for all the interesting people that surround me. After all, I used to be a baby. And I know that they need to be protected and raised in a very particular manner so that they won't morph into very hungry, very angry apex predators able to function both on land and sea.
Which is why I find it very hard to understand why people who probably have better "aw, cute!" reflexes than I have don't take the welfare of children far more seriously.
Whether it's the case of hungry Somalian children being trained as child soldiers in exchange for food, or the education of a whole generation treated as an experimental joke, even someone as tuned-out as I am can understand that these actions hold serious consequences that will only show up over the next ten years. The other side of the crazy scale is consumer-driven societies where babies are almost a must-have commodity. A creepy example of that is the IVF Lottery being launched in the UK soon.
While I can happily get by without having to cooch a baby, I know that every little Pamper-wrapped dictator is going to grow up to be someone some day – each one of them is the shape of things to come. Which, surely, means that any society should be investing a large percentage of its time, energy and resources to nurturing and providing for them?
Whether they're your children, the neighbour's kids, your step-children, your kids' friends, 20 years from now they will be needing jobs, possibly be parents themselves, needing homes and a reason to live. Even someone as vaguely misanthropic as I am knows this.
Which is why I don't understand why any society would neglect them; it's like ploughing a cornfield and then planting weeds on purpose. They are the ones who will be running the world 40 years from now, that's all I'm saying. You know, in charge of nuclear weapons and whether we get pensions or not.
I close with my current three favourite baby quotes:
"Promises are like crying babies in a theatre, they should be carried out at once." Norman Vincent Peale
"A baby is a loud noise at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other." Ronald Knox
"A two-year old is kind of like having a blender, but you don't have a top for it.” Jerry Seinfeld
(Joanne Hart, Health24, July 2011)
Beating single-parent burnout
Perform, or else
Stay in touch with your kids